Thanks to the unknown American inventors

By Guest Blogger Kris Assel | Marketing Director | Solatube International, Inc.

Today is National Inventors’ Day, a holiday declared in 1981 by then President Ronald Reagan to recognize the contributions made by American inventors.

It’s no coincidence that the holiday falls on Feb. 11, the birthday of Thomas Alva Edison, one of our most prolific and influential inventors. Edison is credited with bringing us light, but his invention stood on the shoulders of many inventors before him.

For instance, Alessandro Volta, after whom the volt is named and who was the first to figure out how to generate electricity in a viable way. And there are the many unknown engineers and scientists in Edison’s labs who contributed to the first 3,000 lightbulb designs before hitting on the one Edison patented.

This got me thinking about things I use every day to make my life more comfortable, but have no idea who invented them. In celebration of National Inventor’s Day, I salute the following:

Percy Spencer – credited with inventing the microwave oven. His “A-Ha!” moment occurred while he was in his lab researching radar and discovered the chocolate bar in his pocket had melted. Without his invention, many of us would actually have to “cook” dinner.

C.G. Johnson – invented the garage door opener. You don’t truly appreciate how ingenious this is if you haven’t had to brave -10o F (-23º C) weather and blistering winds, just to put your car in the garage to ensure it isn’t caked with a layer of ice you have to scrape off the next morning.

Eugene Polley – inventor of the TV remote. I’m of an age when I remember my parents telling me to get up and switch to one of the other two channels we had.

In 1986, a group of enterprising Australian inventors patented the first tubular daylighting device, introducing a natural, eco-friendly way to brighten our homes. They brought this technology to the U.S. in 1992, and Solatube International, Inc. was born. From the global headquarters in Vista, Calif., Solatube International engineers continue to innovate more advanced ways to bring daylight indoors.

While these inventors may not be as well-known as Edison and others of his caliber, the inventions of the unknowns have certainly played a part in making our lives better. And that seems like a pretty good reason to salute them.

What inventions have changed your life?


Image courtesy of Nongkran_ch at